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16 October 2014
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Autumn 2007
  Armchair Gardening

The Ornamental Herb Garden
Book Review Trevor Edwards
8 July 2002

The Ornamental Herb GardenWow – Until now, as someone who does not have a herb garden I only ever contemplated a "Herb Garden" in the true sense of the words. In this book the author approaches herbs from a Garden Maker’s point of view, rather than the herbal remedies, beauty treatments, and culinary uses of herbs.

Herbs are among the most valuable of garden plants, but their ornamental qualities are all too often overlooked.
The convenient sized book is well populated with meaningful photographs and coloured detailed layout plans, all of which is cleverly related to the nearby text. In the text, Catherine Mason provides a wealth of imaginative ideas for creating beautiful herb gardens of all kinds, from simple window boxes filled with culinary herbs, through colour-themed herb borders, to traditional knot gardens.

The first half of the book is devoted, in a non-taxing manor, to the theory of designing the herb garden. There is good instruction on surveying your existing space and producing the all important plan – don’t be put off – its easier than it sounds.

I like the paragraph in the Design & Decoration chapter, were Catherine advises one to be realistic about how much time will be available for maintenance after the initial planting. Clipping hedges, weeding, sowing seeds, thinning seedlings and watering containers can take up a considerable amount of time. Don’t be put off, she goes on to say that if time is severely restricted, by planting only perennial herbs which come up year after year, and those annuals which obligingly sow themselves maintenance time can be reduced but not eliminated.

The book gives very good practical advice on planting and taking cuttings. I enjoyed the paragraph, which states – collect propagation material early in the morning, while the parent plants are still fresh after the cool of the night!

Guidance is given on siting the herb garden, choosing a layout and construction of the "hard landscape" of paths and walls. There is a chapter on planting, which explains practicalities. The second half of the book covers in detail eight specially photographed case studies of established herb gardens to show how all the theory can be put into practice. In this section the word descriptions and realistic, mature photographs together with detailed coloured plans and planting schedules assist the recreation of any of the themed gardens.

The final chapter provides helpful symbolised detailed information on Fifty Decorative Herbs, covering Botanical and Common names, height and spread characteristics, positional requirements, the suitability for use as Medicinal, Cosmetic, or Culinary purposes. Furthermore it provides information on which are not suitable for containers and warnings of those which are hazardous.

I loved the book and would highly recommend it to any one who is considering a "Herb Garden" or  "Creating Compact Gardens".

Book The Ornamental Herb Garden
Author Catherine Mason
Publisher Conran Octopus
Price £9.99




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